A new threat to the Cairns tourism business is looming from Wayne Swan, in his psychotic quest to "balance the federal budget" despite any damage he may cause to the economy.
The WHV (Working Holiday Visa) travellers are an important component to the Cairns tourism market. While hugely price sensitive, these foreign backpackers bring to Cairns cheap labour (including fruit picking that boat people won't do), relatively long visits to Cairns where they spend heaps in the CBD, and for the purveyors of liquor, they drink like fish. The cheap room and headbanger music market lives on these people, and the police and CBD shopkeepers scrape them and their vomit off the streets in the morning. The Yin and Yang of the backpacker market.
So ignorantly, Wayne Swan has proposed changes to the visa fees that will signal to the backpacker market that "we really don't want you here, go to Thailand instead". The changes include:
• another 25% increase in WHV visa fees, which have now almost doubled under this government to $350.
• a 17% increase in passenger movement and migration fees - all while cutting numbers of front-line services which have seen long slow lines at Cairns Airport
• a requirement for WHV visa applicants to have both AU$5000 in savings, as well as a confirmed ticket to get the hell out
At some point, the kids are just going to say "uncle" and go elsewhere to countries that actually want them visiting.
The bigger question sadly, is where is the Member for Bloggers, Warren Entsch? Calls to his office for a comment on this gutting of our backpacker market went without a response - typical of this member's engagement with the community. He's so alienated his MP colleagues he's been completely ineffectual as Cairns' Parliamentary member. A more flaccid example of a rep could not be imagined.